Homeschooling Legal FAQ (page 2)
California's compulsory education law (Education Code § 48200) requires each person between 6 and 18 years of age to attend public, full-time day school, and requires their parents or guardians to send them, unless legally exempt. Parents who homeschool their children do so under one of these exemptions. The different exemptions can be found below under the section "How do I go about homeschooling legally?" Unless children are enrolled in a public school program or are exempt, they are truant. Complying with this law is essential.
Yes, homeschooling is legal in California. There has never been any question that homeschooling is legal in California using a public school independent study program, a public charter school, or by tutoring your own child if you have a credential for the grades taught. Independent study programs through the more established private schools have also not been questioned. In the past, the California Department of Education (CDE) questioned independent homeschooling, and stated that homeschooling by establishing a private school in an individual's home was not authorized in California. This is no longer the case. The CDE is not taking a position on the legality of homeschooling. It continues to be the responsibility of the local school districts to determine if a private school has complied with the statutory requirements for establishing a school. Although homeschooling is not specifically permitted by statute and the word does not appear in the Education Code, it is not illegal as long as the homeschooler complies with one of the legal requirements for attendance in a public or private school or is tutored.
There are several exemptions from California's compulsory education law which provide homeschoolers with a variety of alternatives for homeschooling. You can:
- Establish a private school, which involves taking some simple steps. A teaching credential is not necessary. Once the school is established, file a private school affidavit form.
- Join a private school ISP, if it has filed its own private school affidavit in California. If it has not, then you must take all of the steps to establish your own private school and must file the private school affidavit.
- Join a public school ISP (Independent Study Program), in which case your child is enrolled in public school.
- Join a Charter School Homeschooling Program, in which case your child is enrolled in public school.
- Employ a credentialed tutor; or, if you have the appropriate credential, you may be the tutor yourself.
You may decide which option best satisfies the current needs of your family. As your needs change, you may choose to use a different option. A full explanation of each option is available at http://www.hsc.org/chaos/legal/
When children are enrolled in some type of public program, their work is supervised by credentialed teachers. Most of the teaching, of course, is done at home, but parents do not need credentials themselves. Homeschooling parents who are using the private school option do not need a California teaching credential. The statute says, very plainly, that the teacher in a private school (meaning any private school, large or small) must be "capable of teaching". It is obviously a very vague requirement, but we generally believe that anyone of reasonable intelligence and mental health who can read and write in English, even if they do not have a high school or college degree, may be "capable of teaching." Many homeschool teachers attend education conferences, read educational materials, and locate the resources they need in order to meet the "capable of teaching" requirement. In fact, teachers in giant parochial high schools don't need to hold credentials, either. They have to be "capable of teaching," and it is left to the private school administrators and the schools' customers to decide if they are. However, if you are using the tutoring option, you must have a valid California teaching credential for the subjects and grade levels of children that you will be teaching.
To find out if your local district offers independent study, call them. These programs vary widely in resources, in documentation and curriculum requirements, in grade levels offered and in social and enrichment opportunities. The county office of education can tell you if neighboring districts have ISPs; to enroll in one of these, you would need to submit an interdistrict transfer form, obtained from your local district. To find out about charter and private programs, you will need to do research. The HSC website, www.hsc.org, lists some resources, and our HSC County Contacts will often know about programs offered in your area.
How do I establish a private school in my home?
A private school is established by:
- Maintaining Attendance Records showing the days your school is in session and noting the days your students are absent.
- Preparing a list of the courses of study offered based on the statutory requirements set forth in the Education Code.
- Keeping a list of the faculty and their qualifications, which can include short resumes of the teachers, including their education and teaching experience;
- Requiring each teacher and employee to have a Tuberculosis Certificate (http://www.dhs.ca.gov/publications/forms/pdf/pm286b.pdf). While there is some disagreement over whether a home based private school teacher teaching exclusively his or her children requires a Tuberculosis Certificate, we believe the better option is to obtain either the certificate or a waiver from your doctor.
- Obtaining Criminal Record Summaries on each employee, unless all persons teaching are working exclusively with their own children.
- Obtaining a copy of the students' Immunization Records or Waivers, available from their doctor.
After you have complied with the above requirements, you need to review the requirements for filing the private school affidavit with the CDE. See private_school_option.php#affidavit for a complete discussion of these filing requirements
If you decide to operate a small private school, you must maintain the following records:
- A copy of the private school affidavit at filed by your school. If you file online, make sure you have printed a copy prior to submitting it, and keep a copy of your signed confirmation copy. If you did not file because you started your school after October 15 in that same year, keep a copy of Section 33190 in your file to help you explain to anyone that the CDE believes that new schools formed after October 15 in any year should not file the affidavit that first year but file the following year.
- Attendance Records
- Courses of Study Offered
- Faculty and their qualifications (you can write short resumes of the teachers, including their education and teaching experience)
- Tuberculosis Certificate http://www.dhs.ca.gov/publications/forms/pdf/pm286b.pdf
- Criminal Record Summaries, unless all persons teaching are working exclusively with their own children
- Immunization Records or Waivers
Although you must keep these records, an attendance officer is only entitled to see a copy of the filed affidavit and a verification of attendance. A verification of attendance is simply a letter stating that your child is enrolled and attending your private school. You may wish to keep additional records such as the actual course work, grades, etc. These records are not legally required and should not be volunteered to any government agency. EC section 48321.5 (e). Further discussion of the information necessary in each of these records can be found at http://www.hsc.org/chaos/legal/.
Reprinted with the permission of the HomeSchool Association of California. © 2007–2008 by HomeSchool Association of California. All rights reserved.
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